Many experts warn new college graduates about the harm a Facebook profile could have on employment opportunities—too many inappropriate photos or statuses, especially any defaming your employer, and you could definitely get your resume thrown in the trash or get fired. But what many high school graduates aren’t aware of is that their Facebook profile can actually hinder their chances of getting into the college of their choice. Just how employers use social media sites to determine whether an applicant looks promising, college admission officers and recruiters use the social networking site in a similar fashion.
In fact, about 24% of college admission officers admit to tracking applicants on various social media sites, including Facebook, YouTube and Google, to check an applicant’s digital trail, according to a 2011 Kaplan Test Prep survey. And those that snooped typically found something that hindered the applicant’s chances of acceptance, including photos of alcohol and drug abuse, vulgarity, and evidence of a plagiarized admission’s essay.
How Many Admission Officers Do This?
The number of college admission officers who check an applicant’s digital trail may be small and hasn’t grown much since 2008 reports say, but with more and more colleges using social media as a recruitment tool, that number may increase. Another 2011 survey even showed that 80% of its pool of 150 surveyed schools use social media for recruitment. That said, social media is definitely a front runner in marketing and recruitment realm for colleges. So if you’re planning on returning to school to pursue a master’s degree or higher, beware!
How to Safeguard your Facebook Profile from Prying Eyes?
Does that mean you should delete your entire Facebook page altogether? Not necessarily. College admissions officers are extremely busy and don’t really have the time to visit all of their applicants’ profiles. But if they are on the fence about you—they want to really verify that you are a member of a certain organization for example or you may be one of two finalists and they want to get a better idea of who you are—don’t hold checking your Facebook account against them . Thus, it’s important to clean up your digital trail and delete any incriminating information or photos. Here are some tips on how to do that:
- Set Your Profile to Private. This is an automatic given. Click on the arrow tab near “home” at the top of the page>scroll down to privacy settings>control your default settings>switch from “public” to “friends”—this will only allow the people you “friend” to view your page. Or you can click on custom and specify your restrictions even further—for example, you can type in The University of Mexico so no one affiliated with the school will be able to see your profile.
- Delete Unnecessary Apps. Don’t think that simply putting your account to private is enough. Many colleges have a way of getting around this. One of the more popular options is making those interested go through a Facebook app in order to ask questions or get more information. If you read the fine print, terms and conditions will tell you that the app will have access to certain features on your Facebook, such as photo albums. If you add a school-affiliated app, make sure to delete it as soon as it’s served its purposes. On the left tool bar, scroll down to Apps and Games>click the pencil icon next to the app you want to remove>click remove.
- Set Albums to Private. If you know you tend to post inappropriate and incrementing photos, it would be a good idea to set those albums to restrict view or simply delete them entirely.
- Restrict Tagging. You can’t control which photos your friends want to post on your Timeline, but you can control which ones actually get a comfy (and permanent) spot on your page. Under the Privacy Settings go to Timeline and Tagging>Edit Settings>Review Posts Friends Tag You in Before They Appear on Your Timeline>On. This will help control any inappropriate photo-tagging mix ups.
- Stop Uploading Albums. While restricting albums and restricting tags can help, the truth is that every photo you upload can be uncovered in some form or fashion. Thus, you might want to refrain from using Facebook as a way to store all of your photos. Instead, use other sources as SnapFish and DropBox to upload all of your backup photos. Worried that people won’t be able to see them? Trust us when we say your friends don’t really care to see your photos from your two week vacation in Hawaii as might as you think they do. Keep the photos as memories, but you don’t have to share your memories with everyone.
- Restrict Public Search. Last but not least, you want to make sure that you make it difficult for people to find you on the social media site. After all, the harder it is to locate your profile the less chances an admission officer has of finding anything to hinder your acceptance. To do this go to Privacy Settings>Apps, Games, Website>Public Search>Edit Settings> Disable Public Search.
That said, while your social media account shouldn’t play that big of a role in determining whether you get accepted into you school-of-choice or not, the fact that it’s a possibility should motivate you enough to make it presentable.
This guest post is contributed by Barbara Jolie, who writes for the Online Classes blog. Barbara Jolie is an avid writer and blogger, interested in all things education. For questions or comments email her at barbara.jolie876 at gmail.com.